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  • Writer's pictureCelise Downs

10 Ways to Pay for Editing Services

If I were to do a poll, I’m pretty sure the number one complaint from indie authors in their writing journey would be editor rates. Typically, if you’re going the traditional publishing route, finding a professional editor to eye-bang your novel wouldn’t be an issue; it’s covered by the publisher. Unfortunately, as an indie author, the costs fall to you, and some can’t afford to pay the price.

If you think you can’t afford editing services, I’m going to give you 11 ways you can.

Why is editing so expensive?

The straight up simple answer: quality. You’re paying someone who:

  • Has completed training in different services and has the degree or certificate to prove it.

  • Continues to hone their skills with further education or practice tests

  • Has possibly been doing this for a long-ass time (ex: worked for a publisher)

Editing is more than just enjoying reading the written word. You have to be able to provide guidance for an author in a way that’s more helpful than “This sentence doesn’t make sense” or “I didn’t like your heroine.”

An editor will tell you why, how to fix it, and probably even show you in the form of examples or additional resources.

Basically, you’re going to be schooled in a way that a non-professional person wouldn’t be able to do.

What is it Worth to YOU?

Ever since I started this business (the first time), I’ve become a lot pickier in what I read for pleasure.

Before, I would read a book if:

1) I liked the cover and

2) I liked the book blurb.

Simple, right? Didn’t take much to get my attention. Nowadays, I’ll read a book if:

1) I like the cover,

2) I like the book blurb, and

3) If it has a 3-5 star review rating.

Typically, those 1-2 star reviews are pretty consistent in their complaints about editing in some way. It’s hardly-never about a crappy cover or a jacked-up digital file. On the rare, I’ve seen one or two issues about missing pages.

But for the most part, it’s editing issues: typos, grammar, punctuation, lack of character development, lack of plot development, two different stories being told, continuity issues, whatever.

I’ve been known to ditch an author after reading only one book, especially if those 1-2 reviews are consistent across their whole roster of books.

Let me ask you this:

What is a 1-2 star review worth to you?

What is loyal readership worth to you?

What is an author collaboration worth to you?

What is an Amazon Best Seller tag worth to you?

What would an “auto-click author” title be worth to you?

What is your reputation as a writer worth to you?

What is your effort as a writer - the sweat equity, the time away from family, late nights, early mornings, intravenous caffeine drips, laptop replacements, file crashes, self-imposed deadlines, canceled Girls’ Night Out - worth to you?

You wrote a goddamn book, for fucks’ sake! Hell, you may have even written several books. Not everyone can say they did that!

Before handing off The Miracle of Imagination you created to your bestie, your parents, your significant other, or someone who will charge you five bucks…

I’m going to ask you to please step away from the keyboard, do three woosah’s, and try one of the following 11 options:

1. The first way you can pay for editing services is by winning the lottery. You can’t win if you don’t play. Just kidding. Sort of.

2. The second way you can pay for editing services is by selling your soul to the devil. If that happens, I know a couple of dudes whose family business was saving people and hunting things. #Supernatural #TeamSamWinchester JUST. KIDDING. I’m kidding.

Okay, for reals now…

1) Become a Budgetnista

Oh, didn’t you know? Budgetnista is the new fashionista. Have you ever saved for a car? College tuition? A down payment on a home? A vacation? Why not do the same thing for editing services? I get paid biweekly from my Corporate Hell Job and automatically take twenty percent off the top and put it in savings. The rest goes to bills and whatev. Open a separate savings account and throw a certain percentage (or dollar amount) of your paycheck into it. You can also use budgeting apps like Qapital, Mint, or Digit to help you find extra money to put away.

2) Payment Plan

Consider asking your editor if they’d be willing to break up your payments into two or three increments. If the amount is large enough, your editor may opt to do it anyway. Just be aware that this type of fee structure will require you to pay before each stage of the editing process commences.

3) In Lieu Of

Have you noticed lately that when couples get married, they’ll ask for donations to their favorite charity instead of wedding gifts? Or when someone dies, instead of flowers (and tuna casseroles), the family will ask for donations to help with burial costs? The same can be done for editing services. Your friend wants to give you that Coach purse you’ve been eye-banging for your birthday? Nope. Just tell her to donate to your Editing Fund (that purse will be out of season in six months anyway).

Your parents want to get you an Instant Pot for Christmas? Thanks, but no thanks, Mom’n’Dad. Just tell them to donate to your Editing Fund (besides, the microwave works just fine). Your Honey-Baby-Sweetie Pie proposes with a blinding 5 karat diamond? Erm. Take the diamond (you can always pawn it later—for the Editing Fund--if the marriage doesn’t last).

4) Gift Certificate

When Christmas time rolls around and my niece wants to know what I want, I send her an email that says “You can get me a gift certificate to any of these sustainable-friendly places.” GC’s work in the service industry as well. Find out if the editor you want to work with offers gift certificates and then tell your family/friends/significant other to buy you one. Or two. Or eleventy-hundred…

***Give the gift of professional eye-banging to the writer in your life. Gift certificates are available for purchase. Just ask!***

5) Sell Some Shit

I’m not talking about actual shit. Can we say “EW!”, boys and girls? I’m talking about shit in your house that you hardly ever use. Take a look in your closets. When is the last time you wore that fur coat? If you live in a place where it doesn’t snow, you don’t need it. Sell it. Take a look in your garage. Didn’t you accidentally clip your caddy’s nose with those golf clubs? Yeahhhh, you should probably sell’em.

Take a look in your backyard. Who’s bright idea was it to jump on the Gnome Train? #ChooChooWhat? Get those things outta there. Don’t go all Stella-Got-Her-Groove-Back and have a $1 sale on your front lawn, though. Check out places like Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Poshmark, or ThredUp to sell your items.

6) Shut Up and Drive

No Fast and Furious, Baby Driver, or Gone in 60 Seconds here, people! (can you tell I watch a lot of movies?) You can earn some extra dolla-dolla bills ya’ll by driving for Lyft or Uber. Additional bonus? Driver Diaries. Steering Wheel Confessions. Chauffeur Shenanigans. BOOM! I just gave you three ideas for a book series. You’re welcome.

7) Channel Your Inner Transporter

You can be like the hubby-of-my-dreams Jason Statham and make deliveries for companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart, Grubhub, or Roadie. You won’t look as h-a-w-t as him while you drive (unless you can wear the hell out of a suit and own a sexy car), but just think about all those greenbacks you’ll earn for your Editing Fund.

8) Do the Hustle

And I don’t mean the dance move that so many people did back in the 70’s, so feel free to put those bell bottom jeans in the To Sell stack. I’m talking about starting a side hustle. And if writing is your side hustle, then start another side hustle. Since you’re already writing, maybe find something that involves keeping that muscle heavily flexed. Wanna save that writing for your books? Duly noted. Maybe you can find some ideas from this list.

9) And Still I Raise

Set up a Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of both production and marketing. I was riffing off of Maya Angelou there, but you get the gist, right? As writers, you’re all about giveaways. So, while you’re asking people to help you out, what better things to give away than autographed copies and other book-related merch?

10) Grant Me a Wish, Genie

You may not get a genie like Christina Aguilera, but you can try applying for grants or scholarships to help pay for editing expenses. Grants and scholarships are typically awarded by organizations or foundations that support the arts or education. There are many different types available, so hop on Google University (aka The Internets) and do some research to find ones that fit your needs.

Production, among other things, should be a part of your author business plan. I’m sorry, what was that? *cups ear to hear you better*. WTF do you mean you don’t have a business plan? As a creative entrepreneur, if you plan to be in the business of writing for a long time, then you bettah have a business plan. Don’t know how to find one? You can find a pretty detailed one—for no pennies—through The Writer Platform. You're welcome.

What you have to remember is you get what you pay for.

If you paid someone $5 to fix your toilet, you may have issues later.

If you paid $30 for a pair of Louboutins, chances are they’re fake.

If you paid $10K for a Tesla….yeahhhh, it’s not a Tesla.

Anything of quality—good quality--is going to cost you: cars, jewelry, clothes, vacations…and services.

What’s good quality worth to you?


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